By the time Booker T and his MGs got around to doing Melting Pot in 1971 little did they know that it’d be their last real ‘proper’ album and their last on Stax (1976’s Union Extended notwithstanding). It seems strange as it isn’t the usual sending off; it’s a return to all original material (their previous, McLemore Avenue was them reinterpreting the entire Beatles Abbey Road) and it’s very much the sound of a band tightening up, growing in intensity and striking out in new directions. This isn’t the usual winding down swan song that we’ve since grown accustomed to from major acts, but rather a ratcheted up, a reawakening. The record, and its influence (still endlessly sampled in hip hop) speak for itself, the band just sizzles through the eight originals, each striking in new, previously unexplored ways. Booker T and the MGs were always a remarkably innovative band, so it’s a testament to them that after almost 10 years something as fresh and exhilarating as Melting Point could have been offered.
On the topic of bass and Booker T and the MGs, not much additional needs to be said; Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, heavily influence by Motown’s James Jamerson, is one of the instruments true innovators. Here, on ‘Chicken Pox’ he seems to both have a hand in inventing speed funk, while also being the ever steady groove master he always was. They were an ‘artists band’, the sort that most artists respected and admired, and Dunn’s influence therein cannot be overstated; supreme taste embeds all over his work. As camouflaged in a groove as he is the driver of it, his stamp is everywhere. RIP.